Jonathan Wills

From Shetland History Online
Jump to: navigation, search

Dr. Jonathan Witney Garriock Wills (b. 17 June 1947, Oxford) is a Shetland journalist, author, broadcaster, political activist, Shetland Islands Councillor, mariner and wildlife expert, whose colourful career over the past forty years saw him elected as the first student to be Rector of the University of Edinburgh, Muckle Flugga Lighthouse boatman, Scotland correspondent for The Times, Senior Producer at BBC Radio Shetland, and editor of the Shetland Times, before he pioneered the e-media Shetland News. He has also held a number of public posts and has written books for children.


Wills is now a writer and freelance environmental consultant who has specialised in the oil industry for over 25 years. He is the author of A place in the sun - a study of the development of the oil terminal at Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands of Scotland - and Innocent Passage - a detailed account of the wrecking of the tanker Braer in 1993. A frequent speaker at conferences on oil and the environment, he has also written and broadcast extensively about oil in Alaska. In his 1990 British TV documentary, 'Slick Operators', he revealed that the Exxon Valdez disaster could not have happened if the oil companies had implemented in Alaska the tanker surveillance scheme they had helped to set up in Shetland ten years earlier.

Dr Wills operates a wildlife tourism business around some of Shetland's finest seabird and seal colonies during the summer months, and is an honorary warden of the Noss Island National Nature Reserve. He holds MA and PhD degrees in Geography from the University of Edinburgh.

Political Career

Wills has had a varied and occasionally controversial history in Shetland's political institutions.

Wills' first involvement with politics in Shetland was in 1974 when he stood as a Labour MP in the February election and the October elections of that year, coming 3rd and 4th respectively.. He wouldn't return to politics again until 1993 when he was elected to represent Whiteness, Weisdale And Tingwall on the Shetland Islands Council. He was returned unopposed to the same seat at the 1994 Shetland Islands Council election.

He did not seek re-election to his seat on the Shetland Islands Council in 1999 and instead stood for the first election of the Scottish Parliament as a Labour candidate and garnered 22% of the vote. That would be the last time he stood under the Labour banner as left the party in 2001.

In 2008, he was once again elected as an Independent to the Council via by-election in Lerwick South following the death of Cecil Eunson.

In the 2011 Scottish Parliament Election, he publicly endorsed the SNP candidate, Jean Urquhart. In 2012, Wills was successfully re-elected to Lerwick South with Peter Campbell, Cecil Smith and Amanda Westlake.

In 2014, he campaigned in favour of a Yes vote for Scottish Independence.

According to, his political allegiance is somewhat mobile:

He stood as Labour candidate for Orkney & Shetland in 1974 and in 1999 for the Shetland seat in the Scottish parliament. He left the Labour Party in 2001. He currently supports the SNP, and "sometimes the Greens or the Liberal Democrats, depending on the quality of their parliamentary candidates and individual policies" and does not feel "party politics are useful in local councils"

Books by Jonathan Wills

  • Old Rock - Shetland in pictures
  • A Place in the Sun: Shetland and Oil, Mainstream, 1991
  • Innocent Passage: The Wreck of the Tanker Braer, Mainstream Publishing, 1993
  • The Travels of Magnus Pole, Chatto & Windus / Canongate Publishing, 1984
  • Wilma Widdershins And The Muckle Tree: A Shetland Story, Bressabooks, 1991
  • The Lands of Garth: A short history of Calback Ness', 1978

External Link